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Reflection For The 23rd Sunday In Ordinary Time (Cycle A) By Fr. Isidore Clarke, OP

Reflection For The 23rd Sunday In Ordinary Time (Cycle A)        
By Fr. Isidore Clarke, OP

Greetings from Fr. Isidore Clarke.Today I'm going to reflect on the readings for the 23rd Sunday of Ordinary Time. They're all about our duty to correct each other.

Not my problem!I'm not getting involved!That can so easily be our reaction when we see someone doing what is wrong.But today's 1st Reading and Gospel shout, "Wrong, wrong, wrong!"God expects us to stop people from harming themselves and others. He will blame and punish us if we don't prevent people from sinning, when we could do so.But God will reward us if we co-operate with Him in saving the sinner from self-destruction.If, in self-defence, we were to use the murderer Cain's argument, "I am not my brother's keeper," God would reply, "Wrong! You are all my children and are responsible for each other."We can't disown anybody, however badly he or she behaves.We can write no-one off as being worthless, beyond hope.Christ lived and died to save everyone, and especially the greatest of sinners.He has called us to bring His salvation to the world. We are His ministers of His salvation, of His loving mercy.

In the 2nd Reading St. Paul tell us that the commandment to love our neighbour as ourselves embraces all the other commandments. Or put the other way round, every sin is a failure in love, or a denial of love.Real love couldn't allow someone to make a mess of his or her life and harm others, when a friendly word of correction could help them to straighten themselves out.We have a duty in love to help each other to stop sinning.

Most of us hate doing that.We don't want the stress of confrontation. We fear the anger and rejection of the one we correct. In our longing for a peaceful life we will try to avoid rocking the boat. We will try to convince ourselves that we should mind our own business, and not meddle in other people's lives.That's what they will probably tell us, if we presume to interfere in their lives.

But sometimes we must show what is called, 'tough love.'Out of loving concern we must, for example, try to stop a drunkard from driving.If we don't, and that led to him killing himself, and perhaps other people, we would be partly responsible for the accident and their deaths. But if we managed to prevent him driving we would have saved his and their lives.

In a discussion with teenagers at Spode Conference Centre they said they resented the restrictions their parents placed on them -the time they came home at night, where they went, the company they kept.But when I asked them whether they would prefer to be allowed to do as they pleased, they didn't want that!They realised that would mean that their parents didn't care what happened to them.The poor parents couldn't win, whether or not they tried to control their children's behaviour.But God will hold us responsible if we failed to point out faults and dangers to which someone may easily be blind.

The Gospel gives us some practical advice on how we should correct each other.We should adopt a sensitive approach.Far from being inspired by anger and contempt, we should act out of love and concern.We want to build someone up into being a better person, who ceases to bring out the worst in himself and risks harming himself and others.Instead of publicly humiliating someone, we should take him aside and have a quiet private word with him.If that doesn't work the correction should be more formal, with one or more witnesses to back us up.All the time our only concern should to be to bring out the best in people, to build them up, not knock them down.

A final thought. So far, I've been speaking as though we were always innocent and other people needed us to correct them. That, of course, is not true. Sometimes we will need other people to point out our faults. Hopefully we would welcome their correction with good grace, and even gratitude. We should realise they've shown the courage and honesty of real love, when their silence could so easily have allowed us to make a mess of our lives. That wouldn't be true love.

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